22 Mar 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 1 Chapter 4 Commentary

And the space opera starts looking like a soap opera.  Chapter 4 sees inter-personal conflict grow.

Coffee was never meant to be much more than a quirk of Ric's.  After all, it didn't matter how everyone took their coffee, just that they drank it or, in Dusty's case, didn't.  But, it turns out, it became a point that kept coming up.  I try to have people do stuff, like making and drinking coffee, while talking.  First, it lets me avoid using tags like, "Ric said," and "said Rhiannon" over and over when I have more than two people talking.  A dialogue between two people just needs the occasional reminder of who is speaking.  When you have a mass of people talking over each other, the tag gets awkward but necessary.  Second, conversation doesn't take place in a vacuum.  People just don't stand around talking, except in doorways blocking everyone else from getting through.  This also helps give a sense that time is passing for the characters.  Plot can progress when plot needs to during the talking.  Third, since this was NaNoWriMo, I got to pad my word count in a natural way.  Having Dusty check the coffee maker for a timer added far more words than, "Dusty said."  Since I tend to find myself being dialogue heavy, it helps keep things going.

As for how the cast takes their coffee, Ric takes one cream, two sugars.  Rhiannon has hers in the classic double-double.  Miyami, who is still getting used to the idea of drinking coffee as an adult, has hers as a triple-triple.  Lars takes his coffee black; Dusty drinks her tea the same way.  Each character has a reason for how they take their caffeinated drinks, which I hope either comes through or will come through.

Dusty did provoke Rhiannon.  She has her reasons which still haven't come out yet.  It's not time yet.  But, her creative use of insults did need to begin.  Once I got going with them, I decided to not repeat any.  Yeah, let's make this more interesting.  Fortunately, this is just the fourth chapter.  It's not a problem yet.  Dusty only used two insults.  Granted, "Your Highness" is just general disrespect, but it hit harder than she expected.  Dusty could have backed down there instead of going with "Your Queenship" right after.  It's the audience's call whether Rhiannon overreacted or was perfectly justified in her response.

One of the fun things I tend to do when re-writing is completely deviate from the original direction from the previous draft.  Yet another reason why I hate re-writing things - just where do I stop when multiple drafts have very little in common?  Here, because the original work was just bits and pieces spread over a about a year in-story, I started filling in many gaps.  One gap got filled with Cadet Suzanna Schroeter.  She was not one of the original characters.  Her main role was to be an early love interest and distraction for Lars, one who was the more aggressive of the two.  But, as I've pointed out in other stories posted, one-shot characters tend not to stay one-shot, much like Mara in The Devil You Know.  Suzanna will return.

With the cast expanding beyond the original, I knew I was going to have problem with names.  I have an Academy of characters waiting for names.  Even if I provided a name only when needed, I was still going to spend time figuring out as my main cast interacted with teachers and the occasional student.  Fortunately, I figured out a method.  Lars set the style for names of people from Tamar, and it turned out that the style used in the Mongoose Traveller supplement, The Sword Worlds, Scandinavian without being accurate to the country.  The Sword Worlds included sample names, including a random name generator.  Suzanna wasn't the first person I named that used the random generator; that honour belongs to Abby, full name Abigail, in Chapter 1.  The name of Suzanna's cousin was chosen from the list of names.

Friday, Mecha Academy, "Roommates" Chapter 4, "Teamwork".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Josie and the Pussycats.

16 Mar 2018

Mecha Academy - Episode 1 - Chapter 4

Mecha Academy Episode 1 - Roommates

Chapter 4 - Teamwork

"You will rise to any challenge and you will be victorious."
"Meet your squad mates if you haven't already."
"You did not kill her brother, Dusty."
"I don't want to see you again tonight.  Got that, Tyler?"

Reveille blared over the loudspeakers outside and on the public address system inside the residence.  Ric rolled over in his bed, stopping when he realized that the ground was much further away than he expected.  The realization woke him up fully.  Below him, Lars rolled out of bed, his blonde hair a mess from sleeping.  "Hey, dude, what time is it?"

Lars picked up his tablet.  "Six in the morning."  His voice was rough from lack of use.

"There's a six in the morning?  Since when?"

"Since forever.  I haven't slept this late in a while."

Ric climbed down from his upper bunk.  "You are a weird dude."

"I'm from a farm.  Livestock don't care about time, just that they want to be fed."

Ric clapped Lars on the arm.  "I'll go check on the girls, make sure none of them died overnight."

"Not funny."

"I wasn't trying to be."

15 Mar 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 1 Chapter 3 Commentary

Commander Haag lays down the law.  Chapter 3 left the cadets forced to work together.

Rhiannon and Dusty's shared past had to come out.  Chapter 1 was busy establishing the characters.  Chapter 2 established the setting.  The initial conflict for the series, while introduced in Chapter 1, gets explained here.  Of course, Rhiannon's memory of what happened is tinged by her loss.  She's not going to be understanding of anyone involved.

The early inter-character dynamics has Dusty pushed to the outside.  Rhiannon has the sympathies of Miyami, Ric, and Lars.  It's fair; Rhiannon lost her brother.  Dusty, though, wasn't the cause.  She was an unwilling participant.  So, from the writer's view, she's an underdog, and the writer supports the underdog.  I am trying to keep that bias out.  Hopefully, both are sympathetic.

Two more major supporting characters get introduced.  Commander Wilhelm Haag, who first appeared in Chapter 1, gets his role at the Academy explained.  He is the Second-in-Command of the school and will handle Student Affairs as part of his job.  Obviously, he and Dusty have a history, once that's still implied.  The other major supporting character is Commandant Francisco Orman, a Colonel in the Royal Foot Guard and the eqivalent of the Dean of the Academy.  His job is to be the face of the school to Command and make sure that the Academy is fulfilling the needs of the Royal Guard.

It doesn't take a social genius to see that there is a problem brewing in the cadets' quarters.  Haag needed to lay down the law, but just ordering a group to become a team won't work.  His speech at the assembly hammers the theme in, possibly a little too hard.  His speech also nails one of my pet peeves, the difference between soldiers and warriors.  The warrior ideal is venerated far too much in fiction; honour and single combat.  The soldier, though, is part of a team.  There is no single combat; there is no need.  The team can handle situations that a warrior cannot.  Thus, Haag's speech.

The Centurion makes a second cameo.  This came about because of the title; if there's mecha in the title, there should be mecha in the story.  The exact form the Centurion takes, though, was still up in the air while writing this chapter.  The original concept was that the mecha were large, similar to BattleMechs from BattleTech or the Patlabors from Patlabor.  However, when I tried to work out how the mecha evolved into war machines, things started to fall apart.  Tanks still exist in the setting, with grav tanks being the primary models.  In comparison, mecha are slow and, at the size I was considering, large targets.  When I started to work out just how the mecha evolved, I realized they should be smaller.  Instead of being walking tanks, the Centurions became oversized powered armour, a step up from Traveller's Battle Dress and Starship Troopers' Mobile Infantry.  A force multiplier for infantry.  And that's when a few more details clicked into place.  The Foot Guard, the Empire's ground forces, not only have mechanized infantry, like today's armies do, but it also has powered infantry in powered armour and armoured infantry in mecha.

Friday, Mecha Academy, "Roommates" Chapter 4, "Teamwork".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, on adapting to tabletop RPGs.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week.

11 Mar 2018

Happy Increased Risk of Heart Attack and Fatal Collision Week 2018

Like clockwork, people are placed at increased risk and why?  Because no one wants to examine why Daylight Saving Time exists still.  Saskatchewan doesn't bother with the change and it survives.  The worst part?  Daylight Saving Time starts this year a week and a half before the vernal equinox and last six weeks past the autumnal.  There is no daylight to save yet.  In October, the mornings get darker far sooner than needed.  If the loss of an hour is meant to be a benefit, why isn't it benefiting the people who have to adjust?

Daylight Saving is an outdated artefact.  It's not needed.  Time for it to go.  Bring back the lost hour!

9 Mar 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 1 - Chapter 3

Mecha Academy Episode 1 - Roommates

Chapter 3 - Welcome to the Colonel KL Terin Military Academy

"She and I, we've met before."
"What did you do, kill her best friend?"
"I am aware of the problem, Cadet."
"I've lost my appetite."

Rhiannon held herself tight as she sat perched on the couch in her dorm room.  She tried to will herself to stop shaking.  The gunfire still deafened her ears.  Images from the afternoon her brother died assaulted her, the Republic spies firing without care about who they hit, her family's guards bustling her parents away, the splash of red when her brother was shot.  Ethan was on leave from the Star Guard before shipping out to his new assignment.  Rhiannon had been looking forward to spending time with him before his nine month patrol cruise.  Instead, bodyguards dragged her off as he laid in the street, bleeding.  The last image, though, had burned into Rhiannon's psyche, the defectors being bustled into a van and that girl looking over her shoulder and right at her.  Rhiannon memorized that face, one of the reasons her brother was dead.  And now?  That face returned, a little older, but still out of her darkest nightmares.

8 Mar 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 1 Chapter 2 Commentary

Sides are taken, a spy in the midst, and shunning.  Chapter 2 left a main character on the outside looking in.

Chapter 1 ended with Rhiannon slamming Dusty into a wall.  Chapter 2 picks up right after, with Lars about to jump into the danger zone.  Without Ric there, Lars might not have made it through the chapter.  It's not much of a fight, though.  Rhiannon is the agressor and Dusty is passive.  Dusty does have her reasons for that.

Mecha Academy is an older story idea of mine, inspired by various mecha anime and possibly Marmalade Boy, along with the mecha RPG Mekton Zeta.  I had scenes in mind when I first started writing November 1, 2017.  One of Dusty's lines returned, word for word, though I wasn't expecting it - "She and I, we've met before."  Six words, and they were retyped as I let the scene play out.  There are differences from the original scene I had, the big one being Rhiannon getting violent.  This escalated things early, but holding the characters back at this point didn't work.

I may have accidentally started a basis for shipping Ric and Lars.  As soon as I typed out, "Hey, dude, top or bottom?" I knew I opened a door.  Yet, I left it in.  If Mecha Academy gets popular, then slash fic writers have something to work with.  Not that slash fic writers need anything, but it's there.  The line also had me thinking.  The story is in the far future, with a star-spanning empire and high technology.  Why would such a setting be binary only?  In the 60s and 70s, there were SF series with the first women to be something, like starfighter pilots.  Today, though, that shouldn't be a plotline.  We should be past that.  Same with LGBT in military service.  So, sure, there isn't an issue in the setting about that.  And yet, and this is completely on me, I don't have a planned LGBT character this time around.  But there isn't the stigma, either.

Some of the setting building I did came up this chapter.  Commander Haag's uniform consists of an orange shirt of a heavier material much like the one here, a pair of black pants, and a pair of boots.  Before NaNo started and even during downtimes when I wasn't writing, I brainstormed what the uniforms of the various branches of the Royal Guard would be.  The Foot Guard, which includes the cadets at the Academy, wear what armies around the world today do, with beret colour signifying the type of job, artillery, armour, infantry, etc, the member did.  Most of the colours I came up with were based on the military forces of Canada and other Commonwealth nations.  However, I noticed that search and rescue teams wore blaze orange berets, to be better seen.  If you watch any starfighter battle in Star Wars, most of the Rebel and Resistance pilots wear an orange jumpsuit; the Rebellion wants to recover their pilots if they eject.  And that got me thinking.  Star Guard personnel will spend much of their career on a starship.  They don't need camouflage like the Foot and Sea Guards.  In a battle, they'll need to be seen if something happens to their ship.  Thus, Commander Haag wears an orange shirt.

I also worked out what the cadet uniform is, loosely basing it on that worn by students at the Royal Military College.  The cadets wear a white shirt, have the choice of tan pants or skirt, black dress socks, black shoes, the option of a black tunic, and a white beret.  I may have put too much thought into how the uniform appears, but given the setting, it needed to be done at some point.  Plus, with the information in a separate file, I can reuse the work elsewhere if needed.

Friday, Mecha Academy, "Roomates" Chapter 3, "Welcome to the Colonel KL Terin Military Academy".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Reboot: The Guardian Code.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, on adapting to tabletop RPGs.

2 Mar 2018

Mecha Academy Episode 1 - Chapter 2

Mecha Academy Episode 1 - Roommates

Chapter 2 - Ghosts of History

"I thought about that, but apparently the powers that be thought I'd be perfect for armoured infantry.  You know, the big suits?"
"It's going to be quiet without them always fighting."
"I mean, look, I'm just another cadet here, like you, okay?"
"Sir, I can sleep on the cot.  Mistakes happen."
"What the hell are you doing here?"

Lars stared as one of his new roommates tried to throttle the other.  He started to step in to break up the fight, only to have his arm held back.  Lars twisted to see who wanted to stop him and saw a new person, a young man with a concerned look on his face.  "What?"

"Dude, that is the most dangerous place to be right now."

"We have to stop them!"

"Not if we get hurt instead."

Rhiannon slammed the other woman against wall a second time.  "Who the hell let you back in, traitor?"

Miyami ran into the bedroom.  "Rhiannon!"

The woman against the wall let her arms go limp.  She stared down at the floor, unable to meet Rhiannon's eyes.  "Well?" Rhiannon demanded.  She growled, then tossed the woman to the floor.  "I need air."  She stormed out of the dorm, pushing past Lars and the newcomer.

"What just happened?" Lars said, still bewildered from the fight.